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Graphic design standout to teach RCC classes

A former Art Institute of Washington instructor and the president of a successful graphic design studio, Barbara Brecher will pass on her skills in two Spring 2013 classes at RCC: “Introduction to Graphic Skills” and “Introduction to Computer Graphics.”

Brecher holds the degrees of bachelor of fine arts in art education from the University of Massachusetts, and master of fine arts in communications design from the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). It was her original intention to pursue a master’s degree in photography at RIT, but because she had had no formal instruction in photography, she applied to RIT’s School of Design instead.

Entering the program with, she says, “a portfolio of paintings and a handful of brushes rather than the usual box of T-squares and triangles” carried by her fellow students, she found the contrast so remarkable that she wondered why the program had accepted her. One of her professors, however, pointed out the great potential demonstrated by the strong graphic elements in her paintings, and the “wonderful eye for composition” that was apparent in her photographs—and for the next two years the School of Design nourished these talents.

After graduation, Brecher became director of an educational program at RIT that paired design students with staff members from area non-profit organizations. She then free-lanced as a graphic designer for five years before taking the position of director of publications with the University of Rochester Medical Center, and finally establishing her own studio. She describes her Brecher Design Group as “a full-service graphic design company,” working in print and on the Internet to produce annual reports, conference materials, branding, event packages, exhibits, web sites, publications, and logos for its clients. “We manage all aspects of the project,” she says, “and essentially become a ‘staff’ member of [the client] organization during the design and production stages of the job.” During this period she taught classes at the Art Institute of Washington that included such subjects as “Art Direction,” “Introduction to Typography,” “Intermediate Typography,” “Print Production,” and “Advanced Layout.”

Brecher has lived through the evolution of graphic design, watching creative tools evolve from drawing with pencil and paper to using computer-aided design programs. She calls the computer “a pencil on steroids,” and notes that she used to need five to seven designers to do what a single person with a computer can now accomplish.

In some respects she feels that technology has taken the “magic” away from design; but she believes that a good designer can still make magic. If designers can avoid allowing their computers to push them toward a specific design, and instead learn to use the computer to capture their own visions, then it becomes a truly creative tool. “A designer still needs creativity,” she says. “A computer can’t do that for you.”

“Today we live in a very visual society,” says Brecher. “If you can tell a story with a single image rather than with five lines of copy, the audience will prefer it that way. And once you have them with the ‘info-graphic,’ then you can offer them the text.” She adds, “Being a graphic designer is fun. Where else can you go in to work and be creative every day?”

As for job opportunities in the field of graphic design, Brecher believes that they are indeed out there . . . but to find them, the designer must be willing to freelance, arrange internships, join associations, and maintain a network of associates.

Brecher is married to Michael Gessinger (formerly a member of RIT’s Photographic School faculty and now teaching “Introduction to Digital Photography” at RCC). In her spare time she enjoys such hobbies as binding books, creating fiber art, and making glass bead jewelry. She describes herself as “very tactile,” and says that the more she uses the computer in her graphic design business, the more she finds herself turning to “hands-on” activities at home.

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